Thursday, November 7th. This was our longest drive of this month-long trip – 200 miles from Cloudland Canyon south to FDR State Park. On the way down, we drove through actual clouds as well as cloudbursts. Happily, we were able to avoid interstates the whole way. After we checked into FDR, we took a short <1 mile hike on the Delano Trail looping around the campground through the southern Appalachian hardwood and pine woodland where we were challenged to ID the unfamiliar trees – like the chestnut oak with its big (1.5”) shiny acorns.
Friday, November 8th. It was cool and damp this morning, after spattering rain overnight. A good day for indoor pursuits, like a visit to the Little White House in Warm Springs, GA, 13 miles from the park. But first! We stopped on the way at Dowdell’s Knob. This was Roosevelt’s favorite picnic spot overlooking an expansive view of the valley below. There’s a lifesize bronze statue of Roosevelt at the viewpoint, showing his leg braces, indicating that he was able to relax without hiding his disability at his Warm Springs retreat. There was a huge crowd of schoolchildren at the entrance to the Little White House, so we drove back out to do our grocery shopping first, at the Piggly Wiggly in the neighboring town of Manchester. On the way, we saw a sign for the Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery, so we turned in there to check it out. https://www.fws.gov/warmsprings/FishHatchery/They have an indoor aquarium with several of the species they propagate here, including the longnose gar, alligator gar, and lake and Atlantic sturgeon. In extensive outdoor ponds, there are these species and separate ponds for the goldfish they raise as “forage” for the larger predatory fish. We saw some of the enormous grass carp that are part of the National Triploid Grass Carp Inspection and Certification Program,which inspects imported carp on their way to US fish farms to make sure they are sterile (triploid). There are acres of boardwalks and nature trails, natural-looking wetlands, butterfly gardens, and signage about the lifecycle of the Monarch butterfly, as well as other native wildlife in the wetland habitat. Unexpected treat!
After our excursion to the Piggly Wiggly, we returned to the Little White House.
We were happy to see how well attended were the Museum, memorial and the WH. Not large crowds, but the occasional school bus, and a constant stream of small groups and families. The staff were highly accommodating and upbeat, trying to ensure everyone saw all they had to offer. A short movie on his life and death with emphasis on his dozens of visits here. Many of the sentiments brought one to tears. His own polio caused him to start the March of Dimes, which we remember, and he played with many polio stricken children in the Warm Springs. More, his many talks with local farmers and other hill and country folk were instrumental in his later policies, especially rural electrification. Of course, the CCC, which we honor and adore, is mentioned, as are his many political and social achievements and defeats.The museum displayed many of his personal items…as always, one was struck by the lack of ostentatiousness in his speech, his interactions with others, and in the design of the houses and furnishings. Eleanor had her own corner which, while full of praise and noted achievements, pointed out that she was there rarely, in part because of local opposition to her avowed care and concern for Native Americans and people of color.
The Little White House itself is sobering for the preservation of the very spots where he had his stroke, on his leather chair, sitting at a card table, getting his famously unfinished portrait painted and his narrow wooden bed, where he died just two hours later. Only 63 when he died. Pictures of thousands of people lining up to see his train pass by on its way to DC reflect such a sense of loss and sadness.